Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I made Olive Bread - yeah!

This is not the same as sharing photos of food on Facebook (well, I think so anyway), so don't go accusing me of hypocrisy.

I have been getting into baking my own bread recently, and I don't mean using a bread machine. While such appliances are useful time-saving tools, there is something profoundly comforting about kneading and proving your own batch of dough before seeing it rise into sumptuously warm and soft bread. True, it's hard work, but thankfully only for ten minutes.

Now, I don't have my own little bakery going on at home, however delightful such a romantic notion might be, but I do try and bake when I can. I started out doing basic white loaves, but am now trying to be a bit more adventurous. The ingredients are simple: Strong Bread Flour, Water, Butter and Salt (plus any extra goodies for something different).

I have recently experimented with baking Olive Bread and Pumpkin Seed Bread. Not hugely weird, but different enough. Here's what happened...

Olive Bread
Lovely Olive Bread - made by my own hands!
The result: I think I could have baked it for another ten minutes as it was just a bit too doughy in parts. I guess the extra moisture from the olives it to blame for that. I've also got a weird relationship with Olives. Not in a do-I-marry-or-just-continue-to-live-in-the-same-apartment way (that is beyond weird), more of a do-I-enjoy-olives-or-do-I-not kind of way. I tend to find them quite bitter, but maybe I'm getting the wrong ones or I need to develop my palate. At least I appreciate them as a 'good food' and that's got to mean something. So, all in all, I was quite happy about the bread save for the slight undercooked-ness.

My verdict: 7 out of 10

Pumpkin Seed Bread

The result: This was nicely baked with a good flavour and soft texture. The seeds were thankfully quite soft as I was worried they might be a bit too crunchy and added a bit of 'something different' to the taste.

My verdict: 8 out of 10

I'm going to keep baking whenever I have the time (which is pretty limited having a newborn in the family) but hope to try some different types of bread over the coming weeks:
- Wholemeal
- Cheese
- Sun dried tomato
- Spinach 
- Multi-seed

Mmm....I'm salivating already!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

FreeMesa - Easy Freecycling!

Here's a quick shout out to, a great site dedicated to freecycling. I must admit, I had gone off the original freecycle website because it was just a Yahoo user group as opposed to a proper website, meaning it wasn't very user friendly.

FreeMesa is great because you get to have a proper account and can easily post items with a description and image.

The only thing is, it's quite a basic site and I don't think a huge amount of people use it. I'm guessing this is the work of some brave, intrepid soul who's maintaining the site in his spare time. So, click on the link below and get freecycling because the more members who use it the better the experience will be for everyone! - Freecycle from the Community, To the Community. All for free.
Freecycle from the Community, To the Community. All for free.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Einstein an evangelical Christian? Er, no – not really.

I hate to sound all negative and everything, I really do, but I'm about to tear something down that a lot of people have been encouraged by.

There's a story going round Facebook at the moment about how a young student back in the early 20th Century gets into a heated a debate with his professor about whether evil disproves the existence of God. After some clever arguing back and forth, the student eventually wins the argument defending his faith and showing up the arrogant prof. It turns out, so the story goes, that the student was Albert Einstein.

It's a great story, and one that I've seen make the rounds a couple of times.

The problem is, it's a hoax.

It seems that this story was written some time ago and then someone else came along and added the Einstein bit at the end (a sort of internet Chinese whispers).

What's annoying is that, apart from the fact that such an exchange of wits never happened (at least not to Einstein), the clever argument that Einstein is purported to have given is, in addition, fundamentally flawed.

Sadly, Christians are innocently sharing this as a way of reaching out to non-believers and affirming their own faith, supposedly because having someone like Einstein on our 'side' makes Christianity seem a bit more legitimate.

The truth is, however, Einstein never professed a faith (at least not a faith evangelicals would identify with).

From the Urban Myths website:

From everything we know about Albert Einstein, all this scholastic navel gazing would have bored him to tears. As a theoretical physicist he found the order and complexity of the universe awe-inspiring enough to call the experience "religious." As a sensitive human being he took a profound interest in questions of morality. But none of this, to him, pointed in the direction of a supreme being.

"It does not lead us to take the step of fashioning a god-like being in our own image," he explained when asked about the religious implications of relativity. "For this reason, people of our type see in morality a purely human matter, albeit the most important in the human sphere."

This just shows the downside of the Internet. Yes, it's a brilliant tool if you want to communicate quickly with lots of people, order shoes at 3am and watch endless videos of cats dressed at superheroes ... BUT it also serves as a breeding ground for all sorts of nonsense thought up by people with nothing better to do.

The lesson here, kids, is that we should always be cautious about whatever we read on the net. Never assume what you read is true and always expect to see credible sources. Finally, if something sounds too good to be true I'm afraid it usually is. Here endeth the lesson. You have been warned etc.

Friday, May 18, 2012

It's the Friday video post! - Paul Simon (You Can Call Me Al)

A musical one this week, and who can forget such an iconic music video from the 80s (from the terrific Graceland album)?

I love its simplicity and the whole double act thing between Chevy Chase and Paul Simon. I must confess, when I originally saw this video I thought Chevy was the singer (I was so naive back then) but then I had no knowledge or awareness of Paul Simon (being such a young whippersnapper), so it's understandable really.

Apparently, Simon performed at some intimate concert recently but didn't play this track. I don't know if this is fair, but I suspect Simon loathes the song – mainly because it was so successful and is probably the only song most people know him for.

Ah, the price of success...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Woo! 200 Posts!

I just realised I posted my 200th blog article yesterday.

Wow – so far I have managed to punch a big JC hole of self-written drivel into the belly of the Interweb 200 times.

200 times!

It may not sound much, but for me, that's amazing. I have been writing since  January 2009 (over three years!) and when I started out I did wonder how long it would last (Article number 1, peeps. Read it and weep!).

A lot has happened since then. I've set up a company, moved house, had another son and bought an iPhone (in no particular order of importance, of course...). In a bit of a New Year's kind of way, I wonder what will happen in the next three years.

Hmm, could be interesting.

If you've only been reading recent posts, I urge you to sample the wide variety of wisdom, mirth and education (wismircation, if you will) that is contained within this hallowed blog. Here are some fine examples:

My most popular post (over 2,100 page views): Happy Oreo-ness!
My fanboy post: The Loss of Mac Exclusivity
My sad post: Another funeral
My car rant post: Here – just take all the money I have
My Jedward post (seriously): The John and Edward Timeline
My apocalypse post: Packing for the Apocalypse
and finally .... My apology for not blogging enough post: Crazy crazy times...

I suppose I can't celebrate again until I get to 500, so I'll see you at the party in about 2016.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Please stop sharing pictures of your food. It's quite annoying.

I admit that I have done this in the past, but I am a reformed character. I learned the error of my ways and realised what a mistake I'd made.

Once or twice (or maybe more than that, I can't remember), I took pictures of something I was about to eat / drink and posted it onto Facebook or Twitter.

Yes, it's true – and I'm thoroughly ashamed.

I get it now. I understand. It's utterly pointless, especially when it's just a greasy cooked breakfast. Think about it. You're sharing pictures. Of food. That you're about to eat.

Now, if you happened to be eating at a world famous restaurant and the plate that arrives on your table is such an exquisite work of art that you're not sure you could scoff such a masterpiece (food porn, if you will), then fine – it's artistic and I can kind of understand it. But otherwise, a shot of humdrum, regular, ordinary chow is of no interest to me in the slightest. You're not trying when it comes to social networking. You can do better than that, you really can.

The thing is, people don't even bother to make the shot of their grub look interesting. If they'd at least tried some sort of artistic angle, I can almost put up with it, but lobbing an Instagram filter over the top doesn't count.

Unsurprisingly, I'm not the first to notice this:

So please, if you're in the least bit tempted to take a snap of your KFC 'Tower Meal' one Saturday lunchtime and upload it to Twitter – don't. You'll be doing all of us a big favour.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cultural History Lesson: Germans - Udo Lindenberg

The Internet is brilliant, isn't it?

Every now and then I have past memory flashbacks which prompt me to look things up on the web. I saw the Liam Neeson film 'Unknown' last night and because it was set in Berlin I started humming a tune I only ever hum whenever I think of things Germanic.

The tune is 'Germans' by a guy called 'Udo Lindenberg'.  Heard of him? No? Thought not.

I only know the song because I'd heard it back in the 80s. I often recorded a music video show off the telly, and 'Germans' was on one of the episodes I'd taped onto VHS (actually, I think it might have been Max Headroom). Needless to say, I watched this episode over and over (which is why the annoying tune got stuck in my head).

To satisfy my curiosity I thought I'd look the song up on YouTube, and lo – there it was. Even though I never knew the name of the artist, I managed to find it. I honestly didn't think I'd have much luck, but the Internet is full of surprises.

'Germans' is pure, unadulterated 80s euro trash pop rock that does a great job of poking fun at the pre-unification Germans, calling on every stereotypical imaginable. The video is great fun too.

Interestingly, I don't think this song was released in Germany. Even though Lindenberg is German, it was obviously too close to the bone for his fellow Deutschslanders. 

NB You'll have to skip past some weird crap to watch the video (it starts at 0:36)

You can actually watch the Max Headroom version here, but it misses the last bit at the end and, being the completist that I am I didn't think that was right.

There's no need to thank me for my cultural contributions. It's a service I like to provide.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A great crowdfunder project

My good friend Terry is currently raising money via Crowdfunder to help him purchase a movie-accurate C-3PO suit so that he can visit hospitals and events to raise money for charity. He's working hard to raise support and is almost halfway to the target of £2,000.

We helped him make a video for him the other day. It's a bit close to the bone on copyright, but no-one's making any money from it. It's effectively a fan film, and there's millions of those on YouTube all using John Williams' soundtrack with SW sound effects so I think we'll be safe from the copyright gestapo.

I must say I really enjoyed putting it together. It's the kind of project I don't mind spending lots of time on because the end result is great fun. It's not perfect (note that I managed to forget including the 'far far away' intro at the beginning – doh!) but hopefully it gets the message across OK.

Interestingly, it took me no time at all to put together the legendary Star Wars opening crawl at the start of the video. I think it took the Industrial Light and Magic team about a week to do it for 'A New Hope' back in the seventies by using Letraset stuck to a warehouse floor and tracking a camera backwards. Man, those were the days. I made it in iMovie (which has the 'far far away' text editor pre-installed) and then rendered it out so I could edit it together with the rest of the footage in Final Cut Pro. It took me about a minute (!).

Anyhoo, I think the T-3PO project is a brilliant idea and I wish him well with the fundraising. Terry's a master of voices so I can imagine him turning up at a children's hospital in the full kit and giving the kids some really special memories.

Take a look at his blog or Crowdfunder page and if you can, please support him – he'd be grateful no matter what the amount.

Here's the video: